John Danks was rolling, so he got a chance to face the middle of the Angels' order in the eighth inning of what turned out to be a 3-2 White Sox win Wednesday night.
The left-hander entered the eighth with 106 pitches, and while he showed some signs of tiring in the seventh -- highlighted by a David Freese solo home run -- manager Robin Ventura had the faith to give him the ball against Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton with a one-run lead.
Danks nearly worked through the inning, striking out Trout for the third time to open the frame. But Pujols' warning-track flyout turned out to be a bad omen, as Hamilton followed with a game-tying solo home run that knocked Danks out with 119 pitches, the second-most he's thrown in 2014.
While Danks didn't get the result he wanted in the eighth, he appreciated Ventura's trust in him to take the ball for a crucial situation with an elevated pitch count.
"He gives us a chance to go out there," Danks said. "He kind of looks at it as we did, as our ballgame. That certainly goes a long way, your manager has your back. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get out of the eighth."
Ventura said his shaky bullpen -- which also dealt with a doubleheader Tuesday -- didn't factor in to his decision to send Danks back out with a high pitch count and slim margin for error. And while opposing hitters have an .859 OPS against Danks after the left-hander has thrown over 100 pitches in his career, the way he threw Wednesday gave Ventura the confidence to send him back out for the eighth.
"You take what you’ve seen tonight, the way he’s thrown, a veteran guy, he’s pretty up-front when he’s feeling good and when he’s not," Ventura said. "Tonight that pitch (to Hamilton) got him. But he pitched a great game."
Indeed, Danks turned in one of his best outings of the year, allowing just those two runs on seven hits with one walk and a career high 10 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings of work. His changeup was excellent for most of the night, at least until he began elevating it in the seventh and eighth innings.
Danks was able to work off his bread-and-butter fastball/changeup combination all night, throwing those two pitches on 92 of his 119 offerings, according to BrooksBaseball.net. He generated 10 swings and misses on his changeup, using it deftly to strike out eight of Los Angeles' nine starters including Trout, a perennial MVP candidate, three times.
"I had a pretty good changeup, aside from the two homers," Danks said. "Those were bad changeups. I felt like I could throw it in any count. By being able to do that I was able to throw my other pitches. It was a good all-around effort. Tyler (Flowers) called a good game and I just tried to hit his glove."
Twenty-three months ago, Danks underwent shoulder surgery and faced an uncertain future. And while there have been some rocky moments since his return, he lowered his season ERA to 4.12 with his start Wednesday against Los Angeles.
"I'm glad to be able to be sent back out there with 100-plus pitches," Danks said. "I hope the next time it turns out a little better."